Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Yuji Naka's Ivy the Kiwi? Arrives on Nintendo Wii and DS
The puzzle platformer Ivy the Kiwi? arrives on Nintendo Wii and DS this week. This is the latest creation by Yuji Naka, who left Sonic Team to pursue more independent-minded games. It's very close to a Nintendo DS launch game called Yoshi Touch & Go, which was a favorite of mine years ago, so I'm very much interested.
Ivy the Kiwi is a small bird, still trapped in her eggshell, who must be guided through 100 increasingly complex and dangerous mazes. The character runs on her own; you use the Wiimote (or stylus on the DS version) to draw vines for Kiwi to walk. You can also spin the vines around to move Kiwi around corners, and even stretch and snap the vines to smash through barriers. You must be on guard from various obstacles and enemies while searching for secret items and the exit.
This is the sort of game that has "cult hit" written all over it. Arriving on a small botique publisher doesn't help matters any (Sega declined to publish the game for unknown reasons). I still haven't seen any advertising or promotion online, or any real presence on Youtube. Smaller video game companies must learn to rely on social networking sites to build customers and sell their games.
Ivy grabs my attention for three key reasons: it uses motion controls, it includes multiplayer (four-player splitscreen), and it's unique. The sepia-toned storybook graphics are certainly inspired, and I always have to stand up and cheer whenever a classic 2D video game arrives on a console. I think the Nintendo Wii needs more games like this.
Most of all, I'm still rooting for Yuji Naka, who gave us Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS: Into Dreams and Chu Chu Rocket and Phantasy Star Online. He hasn't creating anything inspired since the Sega Dreamcast days, which seems to problem among his peer group of older Japanese game designers. But at least he's still making Arcade Games and not Cinema Games.
People often love to complain that no interesting or inventive video games are being made anymore. Then they ignore a quirky game like Ivy the Kiwi and rush over to the latest Metroid disappointment. If's enough to make you wonder if it's all just a cheap setup. Creativity should still count for something in these foreboding days; at least, that's what I think. We need to embrace the clever and charming. It's even worse than it appears, but it's all right. I will survive.